Tahoe: Family Fun in the Snow at Boreal, No Skis Required

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FullSizeRenderDespite what the weather says, it’s still winter, which means snow for the rest of the country, but warm sunshine for us. With this worrisome warm, it is still very much worth a trip to Tahoe. Why? Well, first of all, it is supposed to snow this weekend! Yes! Second, the resorts have snow.  It’s the driest drive up to Tahoe in winter that I can remember (upside: no snow chains!), but it was absolutely worth our while.

We spent the most fun, family day at Boreal Mountain Resort last week and my kids are begging to return. Boreal has something for everyone of all ages, including those kids who would rather stay clear of the snow, and being among the closest stops to the Bay Area, it was very easy to get to. We had a day full of sledding, mini snow mobile riding, and jumping for hours on trampolines. After hours of hard play, we still had to pull the kids out when it was time to leave. They would have stayed forever.

If your family plans to ski the day away, then what to do is obvious: get your lift ticket and go. If you want to have fun in the snow without skis or a snowboard, this is what to do:

Sled! The sledding area opened at 10 a.m. the day we were there, which meant we had time to sleep in a little and have breakfast before heading over. For sledding passes, drive to the right side of the parking lot to the little shed/house near the sled runs, somewhat at the center of Boreal’s lot. You don’t need to park near the general ski area or to the farthest right side where they run lessons. You can buy a full day pass or a two hour pass, and either way, they provide the tubes and they have a people mover up the hill, which means no climbing required. The full day allows you to sled until your heart is content, leave for lunch or other activities, then return later, which is a great option. My kids sled hard for a solid two hours without needing a break. My husband and I stopped before them. That’s right, even I sled. I was scared, expecting to end up on America’s Funniest Home Videos as I launched over the barrier at the end or flopped off my tube into another lane, but nothing like that happened.

People came and went from the sled area, which meant that at times there would be quite a few people, then it would quiet down. It happened in waves and the lines were never long.

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Mini snowmobiles! This is a special thing not always offered at Boreal, but it’s worth asking about because it was great fun for the kids. The deal is $10 for five minutes to drive a mini snowmobile in a small circle course. In reality, they were letting kids stay on as long as they wanted because there wasn’t a line, and they were letting modest-sized adults use them, too. This was a highlight of the trip. My son and husband both rode the snowmobiles. My husband had fun, but our son was overjoyed. He was driving at the same time as three girls and they all had fun somewhat racing each other around the track. It was awesome.

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Trampolines! Boreal’s new Woodward Tahoe facility is amazing and something that will be a big draw year-round. They are offering summer camps, too. Here is the best part: parents don’t have to stay. This means you can sign up your child and hit the slopes while your kids are having supervised fun at Woodward. Maybe you want to ski for a full day, but your kids are only up for half of the day. This is the solution for that, too.

Half of the facility is ramps designed for bikes, skateboards and scooters. We saw kids (and adults) on all three while we were there. There is even a giant foam pit on that side, allowing those users to launch over a ramp into a soft landing.

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My kids stuck to the trampoline side, where they had a core training class, as first time users, to help them warm up and learn about the rules of the place. After that, they were free. All of the kids seemed to be having the time of their lives, jumping away for hours. There are different things to jump from, tricks to attempt, and foam pits to flip into.

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The best was watching my daughter tentatively climb to a raised area above a trampoline as she tried to summon the courage to jump. She gave up once or twice, but in the end, other kids came over to encourage her. Some showed her how to do it and others stayed at the bottom to cheer her on. It was heartwarming and felt like such a victory when she finally jumped. I got to see her face a challenge and accomplish it, all from a distance where she didn’t know my eyes were on her. I was sitting up in the lounge area, where some parents were chatting, others were working on laptops, and some  were eating lunch as they serve food and drinks (yes, beer!).

It was our first trip to Boreal, but it won’t be our last. We could not get over how pleasantly laid back the staff were, hanging back making sure people were safe without crushing anyone’s fun.

Can you do this in a single day trip? Yes! But then, I’m crazy about road trips. If you leave the Bay Area early and get through before morning rush hour, you can be there when the sledding opens. If drove away around 3 p.m. and made it home by 6 p.m. Next time, we’ll hit up Boreal for more than one day.

As we looked back at Boreal from the freeway on our way home, I said, “This was a good day.” From the backseat, my son said, “No, this wasn’t a good day, this was an awesome day!” Then he asked when we were going back.

Disclosure: Boreal provided us with passes to try out their facilities. We paid for the snowmobile ride. All opinions are my own. 

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